Every once it a while, you get an e-mail that’s so shocking that it could either destroy your soul, or make you a completely better person.
Recently I got blind carbon-copied on an exchange a friend of mine had with “respected activist” Marla Randolph Stevens, a former resident of Indiana and former “political activist” here in the state. If you don’t know her and aren’t politically active on the gay community in Indiana, you won’t care about this at all, so don’t bother clicking through the continued link. But if you do know her, you’ll find the following e-mail enlightening, to say the least. My favorite part is the subject line “Unsolicited and probably unappreciated.” Oh, it’s appreciated more than you’ll ever know, my dear.
From: Marla Stevens < e-mail address removed because I'm much too kind >
Date: Mar 10, 2006 8:50 AM
Subject: Unsolicited and probably unappreciated
To: [A Friend of Mine]
“This runs smack into one of my key issues with IE, being their lack of fiscal transparency. Indiana Equality President, Kathy Sarris, once stated that “There is an assumption that if a group is a corporation, you have to open up to the public. That is not true.”
That’s taken out of context and meant something quite different than what you painted it in your gayindy post to mean. I think Kathy’s got control issues out the wazoo. But that’s no reason not to be accurate when bitching about her. At least she’s in there swinging in an organized way. They’ve fielded a lobbyist and they’re working on trying to put the House back in Dem hands, which is damned good because that’s the only shot Indiana’s queers have got as the point spread is too large to overcome at the ballot box.
They’re not “averse to using technology” to raise money. They just realize that it’s only a piece of the puzzle. It’s not just their opinion, either. You kept on railing about it even when Ellen, whose job it is to understand such things and who is very good at her job, gave you the facts that countered the unsubstantiated wishful thinking being put forth on the list. It’s not “bullhockey”, [name of friend]. It’s conventional wisdom of the people who run campaigns and would give their eye teeth for it to be true backed up by solid research of the political scientists.
Doesn’t mean that technology can’t be a useful part of a campaign but it’s not the be all and end all that you and Steph seem to want it to be.
Michigan Equality is operating in what is functionally a blue state with some very wealthy queers who give money hand over fist to support that group. They also have a different cultural geography with several cities with much larger gay communities with a longer history of active involvement than does Indiana. They also have a functional gay press.
Steph has a point about people using their networks of family and friends to make change but she’s wrong that they don’t need training. It’s one thing to talk to mom and dad. It’s quite another to be effective in the few seconds you have when dealing with a stranger at their front door to keep them from slamming it in your face — or worse.
I don’t see the patronizing, top-down approach as stemming from a desire to use the fight to garner personal power and feed oversized egos. I see it as coming from insecurity that you and others feed with too much criticism and too little time spentin the trenches with them.
They have enough knowledge that they don’t know what they’re doing without you trumpeting it at every opportunity. They know that they’re up against impossible odds and that they will be blamed for the inevitable failure.
Beyond that, Steph is a sad case who somehow always manages to put herself on the outside being critical. People with unresolved abuse issues tend to do that.
Speaking of those with psychological problems, besides being clinically narcissistic at a rather severe state — a disorder that doesn’t make one able to handle coalition politics for very long, the RI nutcase had promised to share the contact list and went back on her word, not to mention declaring that she was thenceforth refusing to work with IE (not the other way around. They had lots more patience with her certifiably whacko shit than I did.) And the $2 bill campaign was just plain lame. I suspect that the church to which you referred, if they hadn’t figured that out then and wasn’t already giving it and her a gentle heave-ho, they would have once they’d had a little more experience with it/her.
The 2005 rally was big because it was new, the issue was live at the statehouse and hot in the press, RI’s nutcase hadn’t quite melted down yet, and there were lots of people and groups working to make it big who didn’t mind letting RI and its nutcase get the credit because they actually do care about the issues more than their personal egos. It’s a lot harder to maintain such work than it is to do it flash in the pan style.
I noticed recently at a critical juncture, that you kept saying “you” and “they” when you should’ve been saying “we” and “us”. That and a highly critical spirit are your additions to the coming failure. You won’t be responsible for the loss — none of you will as it’s just too big a fight for even the best effort you collectively could put together to win. But you’ll be a part of making it longer and harder in the long run at least as much as you’ll be a part of making it shorter and easier and, given your potential to do otherwise, that’s a pity.
The only shot in this marriage battle you as a state have right now is getting the House back in 2006. What are you going to do to see that happen?
I went back and forth about posting this e-mail several times, but I ultimately decided to do so because
Marla is very fond of talking about how she’s a descendent of Thomas Jefferson. She appears to be upholding his legacy well.